More than four months into an ambitious effort to provide emergency food assistance to thousands of Baltimore families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Johns Hopkins University today gathered the many people who have made that effort possible to deliver a simple message: Thank you.
The event was a virtual celebration of the success of the endeavor, the East Baltimore Food Access Initiative, a 20-week program that, when it ends later this month, will have distributed more than 2.24 million meals to city residents. Event organizers from Johns Hopkins expressed their gratitude to the initiative's volunteers and community partners—Saval Foodservice, Hungry Harvest, and 20 faith-based and community organizations—for their critical contributions.
"To our many partners joining us today, we cannot thank you enough for all that you've done for our city," Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels said. "The results have been extraordinary. … You processed donations into manageable, family-sized boxes. You transported them to partners across East Baltimore. And you connected again and again and again with vulnerable families to make sure that their pantries were filled.
"Your efforts have shown just how much is possible when so many stakeholders in our city join together in pursuit of the common good."
Each week since April, Saval Foodservice has provided 2,000 boxes of meats, rice, beans, eggs, bread, and other groceries. Hungry Harvest has provided 2,000 boxes of fresh produce on a bi-weekly basis.
Baltimore United in leadership Development, or BUILD, manages the distribution of 550 boxes on a weekly basis at five community sites, and Johns Hopkins manages the distribution of 1,450 boxes of food through two hubs and 15 partner organizations.
With the continued support of the Hackerman family, which initially backed the initiative in April, what was a 16-week initiative at the start was recently extended for an additional four weeks.
"Even during a pandemic, people still need shelter, they still need food, they still need help," said Alicia Wilson, vice president of economic development for JHU and the Johns Hopkins Health System. "We wanted to fill in the gap, and we wanted to work in the places where others would not. And in a moment when we were being told to disconnect, we needed to draw closer to our community and meet a need, whatever it might be."
Several attendees who spoke on behalf of the community partner groups noted how grateful the recipients of the food boxes have been while also emphasizing how widespread the need remains.
They thanked Johns Hopkins and all of the initiative's partners and volunteers for making a difference in the lives of so many Baltimore residents.
"This effort … demonstrates what can happen when one private institution dares to partner with community organizations, with faith organizations, with other businesses," said Bishop Douglas Miles, BUILD co-chair. "And it challenges us to not let this be a stopping point, but a stepping stone for even greater things that this city can achieve as we pull together."
Added Brian Saval, vice president of Baltimore-based Saval Foodservice: "It was such an honor to be part of this program. It really gave everyone at Saval a sense of purpose, and the inspiration we got from all the volunteers we saw coming out week after week—whether it was 100 degrees out or raining—was truly incredible."
The East Baltimore Food Access Initiative community partners are:
- Amazing Grace Church
- Baltimoreans United In Leadership Development (BUILD)
- Bea Gaddy Family Center
- Caring Active Restoring Efforts (CARE)
- Centro Sol
- First Apostolic Church
- First Baptist Church
- Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition (HEBCAC)
- Koinonia Baptist Church
- Men and Families Center
- Mt. Sinai Baptist Church
- Sacred Heart of Jesus Church
- Sisters Together and Reaching (STAR)
- The Door
- The Mix Church
- Zion Baptist Church
- McEldery Park Community Association
- Reclaiming Our Community
- Southeast CDC
- The Club at Collington Square